Archive for the ‘Saint Elias Mountains’ Category

Candidate: #4

Location: Yukon Territory, Kluane National Park and Reserve – a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Range: Saint Elias Mountains

Elevation: 5,173 metres

When searching for information on the candidates for Canada’s 100 Famous Mountains, I usually conclude that if there is little information available then the mountain’s candidacy is contestable. As I compiled a draft of suitable candidates, I was well aware that I would soon reach the point where I had more than 100 mountains worthy of being on the list, as there are many well-known peaks that are frequented by hikers and climbers and which are located near urban centres or popular resorts. Some mountains would have to be cut from the list in favour of the more familiar ones. Furthermore, I wondered early on if it was really necessary to include all of Canada’s summits over 4,000 metres or only the most famous ones, and as I searched for information on King Peak I found not only few sites but little information on the sites I found. Would King Peak be one of the high mountains that should be nixed from the list? I decided no.

My arguments for why King Peak should be included are as follows: though information on the Net is sparse and King Peak, like many other peaks of the Saint Elias Mountains, is rarely climbed (the ascent in 1999 by Garry Roach’s team was only the seventh) the mountain makes up for its lack of familiarity with its height, beauty, and the technical difficulty involved in climbing it. King Peak is the fourth highest mountain in Canada and the ninth highest in North America. Canada has only five summits clearing 5,000 metres and there is a list of the summits of over 4,000 metres. It would seem a shame to omit a spectacular mountain such as King Peak. A satellite peak of Mt. Logan, its peak is a sharply defined pointed pyramid towering over the ice field, and Allan Carpe, a member of the first ascent team on Logan remarked, “The most impressive views being of glorious King Peak, whose precipitous sides and terrible arêtes would seem to defy hope of conquest.” It was finally ascended, however, in 1952 by K. Hart and E. Thayer.

King Peak is named after William King, a commissioner of the International Boundary Commission and director of the Dominion Obeservatory from 1890 to 1905.







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Candidate: #3

Location: Yukon Territory, Kluane National Park and Reserve – a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Range: Saint Elias Mountains

Elevation: 5,226 metres


As with many of North America’s greatest peaks, the remoteness and harsh weather make Mt. Lucania and its neighbours extremely challenging to climb. The Saint Elias Mountains are the world’s highest coastal range*, and also the world’s most northern high mountain range. Storms roaring in off the ocean collide with these soaring peaks and create the worst weather conditions. Furthermore, these mountains have some of the greatest vertical relief in the world, higher than the Himalayas it is said. Of these massive mountains, Mt. Lucania is the third highest in Canada and the eighth highest in North America.

The first ascent of Mt. Lucania was in 1937 by the famous American mountaineer and photographer, Bradford Washburn, and Robert Bates. A glaciologist, Walter Wood, and a team had attempted the peak two years earlier but turned away and instead climbed Mt. Steele, making the first ascent of that mountain while declaring Mt. Lucania un-climbable. The expedition by Washburn and Bates was done with air support and was the remotest landing on a glacier ever attempted in North America at the time. The climbers had supplies dropped off in March and in June they were flown in for a landing on the Walsh Glacier on the Alaskan side of the mountain. Things got off to a bad start when the plane got stuck in slush that had formed due to unusually high seasonal temperatures, and it took five days to get the plane airborne while melting snow opened up deep crevasses in the glacier around them.

Thus began the adventure that may have been the most harrowing of all of Washburn’s mountaineering days. An account of their journey is documented in the National Geographic book On High – The Adventures of Legendary Mountaineer, Photographer and Scientist Bradford Washburn, and tells of how the two men were stuck with three left boots and one right one because not all of their supplies had made it in by plane, and how they had to make do with two pairs of off-the-shelf L.L. Bean “Maine hunting shoes”. They abandoned much of their gear along the way, including food and Washburn’s treasured 8×10” Fairchild camera, as they made it to the summit of Mt. Lucania and then went on to reach the summit of nearby Mt. Steele. Here they followed in Wood’s footsteps and were fortunate enough to have perfectly clear skies. On the way down they tossed more gear including their air mattresses and they even cut out half of the bottom of their tent to save weight. They found a cache of food Wood had left behind but discovered all the tins punctured by grizzly bear teeth and the contents sucked out. As they descended for Burwash Landing and Kluane Lake they encountered another surprise: the river they had to cross was in full torrent thanks to the early melting that year and they had to go several kilometres back upstream in order to find a place to cross. When at last they met up with a team bringing pack horses through the forest, the men with the horses were astonished to hear that Washburn and Bates had come from Valdez, Alaska over the ice fields and peaks of the mountain range. Mt. Lucania was not climbed again until 1967, this time by Garry Roach, the first man to climb all ten highest summits of North America.

Mt. Lucania is named after an ancient territorial division in southern Italy, today known as the provinces of Basilicata and Salerno, also a mountainous region though with summits reaching only above 2,000 metres.

Note: A sub-peak of Mt. Lucania is Atlantic Peak, 4,879 metres high. On the Summit Post link below I found information saying that Atlantic Peak was ascertained to be an individual peak, separated enough from Mt. Lucania. If this is true it makes Atlantic Peak Canada’s sixth highest mountain. However, after searching through Google for further information I have only found sites that include Atlantic Peak as a sub-peak of Lucania and not as an individual peak. Other large mountains of the Saint Elias have multiple peaks too but only the main peak of those mountains is considered. King Peak though is far enough from Mt. Logan to be considered a satellite peak, and therefore an individual peak, and not a sub-peak.

*Some argue that the Andes are the highest but the highest peaks of the Andes are located in ranges some distance inland from the ocean.










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Candidate: #2

Location: Alaska/Yukon Territory, Wrangle – St. Elias National Park/Kluane National Park and Reserve

Range: Saint Elias Mountains

Elevation: 5,489 metres

Mt. Saint Elias holds the distinction of being the second highest mountain in two countries. Its summit bisected by the Alaska/Yukon border, the mountain is second highest to Mt. McKinley/Denali Peak in the United States, and second to Mt. Logan in Canada. Perhaps it is all very fitting that two nations which have maintained a relationship that goes deeper than neighbours for the better part of the last 200 years should share the summit of this behemoth of a mountain, the second highest in the range that bears its namesake. A beautiful pyramid-shaped peak, Mt. Saint Elias rises to its majestic heights only 16 kilometres from the sea water of Ice Bay in Alaska, giving it an extraordinary vertical relief, and it is actually the highest mountain in the world that is so close to tidewater. This also makes the Saint Elias Mountain Range the highest coastal range in the world (while the Andes in Peru are actually over 1,000 metres higher in the Cordillera Blanca, they are separated from the ocean by the lower Cordillera Negra). The mountain is about 40 kilometres from Mt. Logan and offers a spectacular view across the summits of the Saint Elias Range. On the Alaskan side is the Malaspina Ice Field, produced by the glaciers of Mt. Saint Elias and the largest ice field in Alaska.

The first Europeans to lay eyes on Mt. Saint Elias were Vitus Bering and his crew from Russia on July 16th, 1741. It is disputed whether Bering named the mountain or whether it was named by 18th century map-makers after Cape Saint Elias. Between 1886 and 1897 there were several attempts to climb the peak, however, due to the frequent storms coming in off the ocean the first seven parties failed to reach the summit. Prince Luigi Amadeo di Savoia, the Duke of Abruzzi and his party finally succeeded in reaching the summit on July 31, 1897. The mountain was not climbed again until 1946. Because of the difficult weather, the mountain is not climbed often and most climbing parties take two to three weeks to reach to the summit.

Mt. Saint Elias is known as Yaas’éit’aa Shaa to the Tlingit, the name meaning “mountain behind Ice Bay”, and the Yakutat Tlingit call it Shaa Tléin, “Big Mountain”. It was used by the Kwaashk’khwáan clan as a guide when they sailed down the Copper River.









Next: Mt. Lucania

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Candidate: #1

Location: Yukon Territory, Kluane National Park and Reserve – a UNESCO World Herritage Site.

Range: St. Elias Range

Elevation: 5,959 metres

As Canada’s highest mountain there is no doubt that Mt. Logan should be on our list of 100 Famous Mountains of Canada. But there is more than just height to make this mountain famous. The Logan Massif is said to have the largest circumference* of any mountain in the world and has 11 peaks over 5,000 metres. Its prominence, measured from Mentasta Pass, is around 5,250 metres (according to Bivouac.com, or 5,247 metres according to Wikipedia). A glaciated plateau of 20 kilometres by 5 kilometres sits atop the massif and the mountain rises some 3,000 metres above the glaciers of the ice sheet below. The mountain is absolutely massive and mountaineers who thought they saw gigantic mountains in the Himalayas are awed by the size of Logan. Even from a distance it completely fills the skyline. The ice sheet around the mountain is also the largest in the world, not connected to an ice cap. Furthermore, Mt. Logan records some terribly cold temperatures with a record -77.5 °C recorded on May 26th, 1991, the coldest temperature recorded outside of Antarctica.

Mt. Logan was named in 1890 after Sir William Edmond Logan, founder of the Canadian Geological Survey. The summit was first reached on June 23, 1925 by six climbers: Albert H. McCarthy, H.F. Lambart, A. Carpe, W.W. Foster, N. Reed, and Andy Taylor. Until 1992, the exact height of the mountain was not known with certainty and was given from 5,959 metres to 6,020 metres. In 1992 an expedition to the summit used GPS and fixed the elevation at 5,959 metres; however a recent measurement taken twice from a plane showed the mountain reaching 5,966 metres. This new measurement has not been officially confirmed or recognized. Though the mountain is still growing due to tectonic uplifting, one reason postulated for the additional seven metres was an increase in snow and ice build-up.

Mt. Logan is listed on the Second Seven Summits as it is the second highest peak in North America next to Alaska’s Mt. McKinley/Denali Peak, and it is also on a list of ultras in Canada.

*Mt. Logan is the mountain with the largest sub aerial mass. Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii is said to have the largest mass when its submarine volume is included. The base of Mauna Loa is on the ocean floor and including this it has a volume of 100 times that of Mt. Fuji.










Peter von Gaza Photography


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